Dartmoor Nature Tours

Discover Dartmoor's wildlife with a professional local guide  


June (updated on Sunday 24thJune, 2018)

June was the fourth month of the old Latin calendar and is thought to have got its name in honour of the Roman goddess Juno.

After an unsettled start the latter part of June has once again produced warm sunny weather with some extremely hot days around the 21st to the 24th and it looks like it’s due to continue for at least another few days. The view of the stone row at Merrivale was particularly stunning for the Summer Solstice (see picture below, top left)

Visit to Postbridge Hay Meadows

June is a wonderful time to visit the Dartmoor Hay Meadows and this week I made my annual visit with a U3A group from Exmouth. There are now less than 6000 hectares of this type left in England of which just approximately 20 hectares survive on Dartmoor.

On Dartmoor these meadows are mainly located in and around Postbridge and have benefited from past management including application of limestone slag and manure which raised their productivity. In the modern era, however, many of them were ‘improved’ or abandoned and then colonised by scrub and woodland. Even when properly managed as traditional hay meadows there is still a conflict of interest between the farmer who wants an early cut for hay and the botanist who wants to see as many flowering heads as possible with a late cut! To keep them at their best they should not be cut until August (when most flowers have dropped their seed), and then grazed during autumn and early winter with sheep or cattle. A small amount of cattle manure may be added annually but not any artificial fertilisers!

The meadows at Postbridge consist of a delightful range of species including greater butterfly orchid (see picture below, top right), common twayblade, southern marsh orchid, heath spotted orchid, early purple orchid and many other species such as yellow rattle, ox-eye daisy, common knapweed, self-heal, eyebright, bird’s foot trefoil, pignut and yarrow, most of which we saw on our visit.

At this time of year, the valley bogs and mires on Dartmoor look as if they are covered in snow but what you see is the white flower heads of cotton sedge (see picture below, bottom left).

These valley bogs also have thriving populations of the nationally rare Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary butterfly (see picture below, bottom right, of adult with large skipper nectaring on marsh thistle).

The adult male butterfly can be seen patrolling low over the boggy breeding sites in search of a mate. Egg-laying females are easy to follow as they flutter slowly and deliberately low down over vegetation, searching out suitable areas of food plant (usually marsh violets) on which to lay. Both sexes are avid nectar feeders, and can be seen at flowers of Bugle, Buttercup, Birds-foot Trefoil, Wood Spurge, Ragged-robin and other plants.

Future Events

Moorland Walk

The next Moorland Walk will be on Sunday July 15th. The walk will start at 09.30 hours from the Haytor Visitor Centre. Charge is £5.00 per adult. There should still be plenty of moorland birds such as stonechats, wheatears and whitethroats plus a few surprises.

Telephone (0785 8421 148) or e-mail me at enquiries@dartmoornaturetours.co.uk if you need more information about any of these events.

You can also follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Dartmoornaturetours/